Is it better to start writing without making notes or do I have a few notes set up and then start writing? Or the other way, where I simultaneously write the novel AND the notes?

  • I will go ahead and assume you have your basic plot down right? Apr 23, 2016 at 18:54
  • Yup. I've got the gist of it Apr 24, 2016 at 1:58
  • so long as you know where your headed I'd go for it! I usually get the basic plot down, get about 100-200 pages in then start taking notes on some details and side story things I'd like to bring up later. Whatever you feel comfortable with really. I finding my writing flow comes easier if I don't have a strict line to stick to so go crazy then fix it when you've had caffeine ;) Apr 24, 2016 at 3:28

2 Answers 2


I don't think it's possible to give a definitive answer to this question. Different people have different styles. Do what works for you.

I write non-fiction. (I've got two false starts on novels that I've set aside to work on another non-fiction book.) I try to collect all my raw information in a mass of notes, not necessarily well organized, and dump them into a big MS Word file. Then I work my way through that file turning the notes into (hopefully) comprehensible text. I flesh out explanations, re-arrange blocks of text into a coherent order, etc.

You certainly COULD write a novel that way. Write a mass of notes about who does what and when. Then go back and edit this into complete sentences, add connecting events, etc.

But I don't think most fiction writers work that way.

You should certainly know where you're going. I forget where I heard it, but one writer said that the ending of a story should be a surprise to the reader, but not to the writer. If you find it helpful to sketch out how the story will go, and then go back and fill in the details, great. If you find you write better when you just make it all up as you go along, that's great too. If you're not sure what works for you, try it both ways and see which works better.

Always be savage with your own text. If you find that a scene in your story adds nothing and/or doesn't really fit, cut it out. It doesn't matter how much time you spent working on it. I've had plenty of times that I've labored for days over some long section of a book, and then when I came back and re-read it I said, This is worthless. It will just confuse the reader, or take him off on a total tangent from the point I'm trying to make.

  • For some reason, I've been doing BOTH together. I write the main text alongside my notes. Is that like, too weird or is it an okay way to write? +1 btw Apr 24, 2016 at 8:02
  • Some fiction writers discover the ending as they write. We don't map out the whole thing ahead of time, but rather we jump in and see what forms. I've had stories done completely except the ending, which means I have to reread the piece repeatedly until the ending that most naturally flows from it shows up. (Your mileage might vary, of course.) Apr 24, 2016 at 14:58

Everyone has their own process. If you don't, then try one and see how it goes.

I suspect I'm in the minority here, but I never outline or make notes. I begin by writing and I see what story emerges from that. Writing scenes reveals who the characters are, how they relate to each other, what they're going to do in the story, etc. Through revision, much of this writing gets shed, but it's the foundation of future drafts.

(In truth, I do have lists of story ideas, and those act as the kernel for that initial exploratory writing.)

Just write.

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